Knit Wit

June 18, 2013

There is ford-and-tadpole news but it needs me to have a decent camera so it will have to wait so I shall bore you instead with a knitting post, as it’s my blog and I can if I want to.

Some while back I discovered that some of my knitwear had fallen prey to clothes moths – I’ve already had to recycle one into socks – including two nice merino numbers, one navy cardigan and one sort of fawn-coloured jumper. Having tasted the delights of a snug merino base layer during the winter* I thought I’d better not let those go to waste so I unravelled what was left and have been looking for a project to make use of the wool ever since. I came across this pattern which seemed just the ticket although even with three strands of it held together (which makes for an interesting colour – something like plasticine after all the different colours have been munged together) my wool is much finer than the gauge for the pattern so in order to make it fit I’m having to knit it for basically a 42-inch chest, which I can assure you I’m not. Ahem. Anyway, that meant casting on approximately a million stitches so it’s slow going…

base layer knitting project

I’m hoping it will be finished for winter, although which winter is anyone’s guess.

The pattern starts off nice and simple (once you’ve figured out circular knitting) and then gets oh-help-that’s-quite-complicated around the sleeves and things but I am sure I will manage to work it out. They used to select women who could knit to operate computers during the war because if you could read a knitting pattern you could work out a computer, so I’m hoping that – as a former computer programmer – this also applies the other way around. Surely after mastering C++ instructions like “Next Row [WS]: Work all sts in patt, picking up wraps and working them together with wrapped sts. Join to held sts of back left shoulder using Three-Needle Bind Off” should be child’s play… And once finished, how environmentally sound will it be? Not only is it entirely recycled and hand made, it should keep me nice and warm rather than cranking up the heating. Although, on the debit side, I suppose it did entail the destruction of an important invertebrate habitat…

And when I’ve finished that, look what my cousin found me in the car boot sale, for 50p.

knitting wool

It’s shetland wool, two-ply. Any suggestions or requests? Because otherwise that’s an awful lot of socks…

*that’s August to June, in case you’re wondering


Knit Wit

April 6, 2010

For my birthday – that is my birthday a whole year ago – my mother gave me a lovely cardigan.


And you thought flat packs were complicated

Unfortunately, it came in kit form.

It joined the queue of ‘oh help that looks a bit daunting, maybe I’ll make another hat’ knitting projects until the beginning of this year, when I decided I’d better tackle it. Because it was a lot of wool to waste on something that didn’t work (generally, by turning knitting wool into a knitted thing, even successfully, you destroy about 30% of its value) I decided to abandon my usual tactic of making it up as I went along loosely based on a pattern I’d found on the internet and subsequently failed to bookmark, and decided to follow a real proper paid-for pattern. What – apart from being unable to follow the instructions* – could possibly go wrong?

Three months later, I realised that – even if I knitted as fast as I could – I was going to run out of wool before I’d finished the second arm of my cardigan, despite the pattern only supposedly needing eight balls of wool. Closer examination of the pattern revealed that I was supposed to be knitting it in 4-ply wool ‘Is that very different from Double Knitting, then?’ I asked my mother. Ah. Yes, it is, apparently. Who knew? I mean, apart from everyone who knits, of course.

Fortunately, fresh supplies of wool have just been scored. At current rate, I should have it in time for, I don’t know, next Christmas? And then, I’m going to have to tackle the big one: my aunt has given me the wool and the needles needed to knit socks.

Wish me luck.

*Women computer operators were selected in the war on the basis that anyone who could follow a knitting pattern would find operating a computer child’s play. Nothing I’ve learned in the past year has contradicted this assumption…

Get Knitted

February 19, 2009

So, as I mentioned earlier, knitting’s a bit addictive…

I started off simply enough with a hat, using a free pattern I found on the interwebs:

Officially 'Not Bad' according to the other half

Officially 'Not Bad' according to the other half

This would have gone better had I realised that UK and US knitting needle sizes aren’t just different but completely backwards, but I was pretty pleased with how it turned out. ‘Wow,’ said the other half, showing great faith in my talents, ‘that’s not actually that bad, will you knit me one?’

So I did (although he seems to have hidden it – or maybe he’s actually wearing it – so you’ll just have to believe me).

Then I knitted a scarf to go with my hat:

it was supposed to be longer but I ran out of wool

it was supposed to be longer but I ran out of wool

And then I went a bit mad and actually ordered some wool (cocaine might well have been cheaper) and knitted this:

Still waiting for me to work out how to knit handles

Still waiting for me to work out how to knit handles

Which was supposed to shrink down to lap-top bag size when I felted it but didn’t. It seems that all those airy felting instructions you read on the internet about just putting stuff in the washing machine presupposes a rufty-tufty top-loading American washing machine that washes things so that they stay washed, not one of our wimpy European front-loading eco-friendly washers that just sort of dabs them clean.

So anyway, nothing daunted, I then started to branch out and knitted a hot-water bottle cover which was based on this but with several off-piste additions of my own:

Like a tiny jumper, for someone with no arms. Or legs.

Like a tiny jumper, for someone with no arms.

Then I went even madder and knitted this:

Knitted felted mug cosy, patent pending

Knitted felted mug cosy, patent pending

Which is a mug cosy of completely my own design, albeit following the rather more detailed instructions for felting on the excellent ‘Knit like a Pirate’ site. The other half reports he can now eke out his coffee for fifty percent longer than before without it getting stone cold. This has made him correspondingly fifty percent harder to get out of bed in the mornings, especially with the nice snuggly hot-water bottle in there.

So … now what? A brief glance through the world of knitting websites suggests there’s nothingon earth you can’t knit, if you try hard enough. I’ve got three or four smallish balls of wool sitting tempting me on the kitchen counter… what would you knit?

A Nation of Shopkeepers

July 5, 2019

I remain, frustratingly, cameraless after one repair attempt failed leaving me with a phone that will now not focus at all unless I use it in selfie mode. This is particularly annoying as Moo-I-5 have made an unexpectedly early return and I’m sure will be providing entertaining* blogging material as soon as they have got over the ‘Nooo!! Scary humans!’ stage of their visit (meanwhile the cows in the other two fields near our house have discovered each other and have spent the last two days mooing yearningly at eachother across the front corner of our garden).

Bike hub shopfront

So I’ve been trawling back through earlier photos and realised I forgot to announce that I have taken up shopkeeping – or, more accurately, voluntarily minding the Buddies accessible bike hub one day a week. It’s fair to say I’m not rushed off my feet just yet, although I have rented out one bike, shown a couple of prospective punters round, directed numerous confused people towards the ‘real’ bike shops in the town, and spent much of the rest of the time in an undeclared war with the illegal parkers of the supposedly pedestrianised street the shop is on. If a space does open up outside the shop, my job then is to dash round as fast as possible (which is not particularly fast) with the rickshaw bike or other contraptions to fill the space before the spot is nabbed by someone else who’s ‘just dropping something off’ to one of the other shops, a task which apparently takes all day. I can then amuse myself by watching through the window as drivers think they’ve scored a spot and then discover they’ve been gazumped by a bicycle. Or, when I fail to get to the space first, then at least I can enjoy counting the number of direct hits Bigtown’s seagulls score on the scofflaw parkers (there’s a reason all those bikes are sporting saddle covers, and it’s not just to advertise the Bigtown Cycle Campaign.

If nothing else, I’ve found myself a quiet (and internet-free) spot in town to get on with some work and/or knitting while I wait for the good folk of Bigtown to come in for a nosey, so it’s win-win as far as I’m concerned. Watch this space for exciting tales of retailing or parking war triumphs – or at the very least, some progress on my latest knitting project

* adjusted for the peculiarly low standards of this blog.

To Heck and Back

May 5, 2019

Hmm. Yesterday morning saw me settled on the bus, feeling that – rail replacement bus services notwithstanding – I had things well in hand. I had a lunch packed, my knitting to keep me busy on the coach to Edinburgh, and would be arriving well in time for our Pop pub session. I’d even had a stern word with myself about being over cautious with my bus times and decided that half an hour was plenty of slack between the bus’s scheduled arrival in Lockerbie and the rail replacement service departure. It was a Saturday, the bus had arrived well on time, and all was going to plan.

knitting work in progress

From my mouth to God’s ear, of course: for the next thing that happened was we happened upon a police road block. The main road to Lockerbie was closed and would be for some time, so the bus was going to have to find another way. Off we set, into unchartered territory, down a winding lane and then another, past the hamlet of (I swear I am not making this up) Heck, which appears to be less a place and more an excuse to put up a comedy road sign, and back up to the main Lockerbie road after a five minute or so detour – still plenty of time to catch my train. Phew.

Except that the road was still closed ahead, so round we went again, back to the original road block, back down the winding lane, skipping Heck this time and heading into even more unchartered territory, on what turned out to be about a 10 mile detour along increasingly narrow (and now quite congested with detouring traffic) roads. After a pause while a volunteer was found to help the bus back out of a wrong turning, always an exciting procedure, the driver confessed he wasn’t entirely sure where he was going and a navigational committee of passengers formed to get us finally into Lockerbie ten minutes after my Edinburgh service was due to have left.

All was potentially not lost though – the coach might have been delayed so I still had a chance, except that, as the bus stopped at the stop before the station, the chair of the Passenger Navigation Committee paused as she alighted to give the driver some further advice, a process which seemed like it might take forever. At that point, a bus stop worth of people who had been waiting 20 minutes for the Bigtown bus crossed the road to enquire about when their service might arrive, at which point the Brompton and I bailed out and sped off to the station just in time to witness the Rail Replacement coach sail out of the forecourt without me, despite frantically waving to get the driver’s attention. He’s probably wondering even now what he’d done to get the middle-aged lady on the clown bike so worked up …

Still, I made it and, while I was more than ready for my post-Pop beer by the time I arrived, in the end it was just an hour’s delay and a funny story to tell. Sadly, I found out later that the road was closed because of a fatal collision – it’s a notoriously dangerous road, and not just for cyclists (indeed I know of very few cyclists locally who would ride on it). That puts my petty problems into perspective and reminds me to be grateful that I made it home unscathed.

There’s Very Little …

May 4, 2019
POP tshirts hanging to dry

Post-pop washup session

… that sinks the heart quite so thoroughly as the words ‘rail replacement bus service’. This has been a week of trains what with two trips to Glasgow and two trips to Edinburgh, indluding the final one today, for the post-Pop washup meeting which will mean two hours on a coach rather than an hour on the train.

Even worse, though is spotting the word ‘cancelled’ against your train home – as I experienced on Thursday after a productive meeting with Back On My Bike plotting further progress with our other cycle campaigning activities (which in turn will mean more trains, albeit hopefully not cancelled ones). Expecting the worst – at the least a two-hour wait for the next train – I was pleasantly surprised to instead be offered a taxi to Lockerbie with a fellow passenger. I know some people who would have preferred the two hour delay but my travelling companion was pleasant and interesting and happy to chat, I had my knitting, and I even got an onward lift from Bigtown from her family who were waiting to pick her up. Sometimes a bit of enforced sociability away from the dreaded phone and laptop are just what the soul needs, even if it’s not great for my deadlines. And I’m making progress with my knitting. When life sends you cancelled trains, make jumpers.

I was also reminded that I am in fact the weirdo when I suggested my lift drop me off at the supermarket by the bypass, that being the easiest place for them to stop without getting tangled up in what passes for the Bigtown rush hour. ‘But how will you get into the centre of town?’ they asked in horror. ‘Walk’, I said (it’s really only a mile). Amazing, apparently…

The Cow Pannier Rides Again

April 24, 2019

When you’ve suddenly got to be in Bigtown for a photocall for the local paper, and you need to transport three spare cow costumes, because dressing up as cows for a protest ride seemed like a good idea in the pub, there is really only one tool for the job:

Cow pannier on bike

Sadly, just a temporary bodge rather than a real resurrection

When I first started cycle campaigning I think I imagined I’d be attending meetings, looking at plans for new infrastructure and maybe making the odd impassioned presentation to officials and politicians, much of which I have done. But I don’t think I bargained for dashing down to the local park to be photographed in a homemade cow costume.

In fact, cycle campaigning (at least the way I do it) has turned out to require a diverse skillset – not just costume making, but bunting manufacture, and indeed, knitting jumpers for bollards. Which is fortunate, given my deficiency in the more traditional cycling related skills of bike repairs, routefinding and even (in recent months at least) keeping the rubber side down.

But mainly, it seems to require baking, and lots of it. Which in turn requires plenty of cycling, to burn it all off.


Actually, I can see no problem with this situation.

Anyway, this is really just a long-winded way of checking that everyone reading this in Scotland has picked out which Pedal on Parliament #PopUpPop they will be attending this weekend (and if you can’t make it, could you at least buy the t-shirt?)

Unfast Fashion

February 5, 2019

After knitting enough socks to get a little bored of the process, and then an unexpectedly successful tea-cosy for my mother, I have decided to risk knitting something a little more ambitious (and by ambitious, I mean ‘something any actual knitter can do with their eyes shut): a jumper.

tea cosy

Not a jumper, unless you’re a teapot

I have actually managed to knit myself a whole cardigan in the past (it even came out quite successfully, although sadly the moths got more use out of it than I did in the end), and then abandoned an attempt to do a jumper, but I thought I’d have another go having fallen in love with a pattern I saw on the Internet (I realise, looking at it now, that half the attraction may be that it’s a grey jumper in the picture, but never mind).

wool coneOne of the problems with knitting something like a jumper is that you end up spending a substantial part of your life turning about £60 worth of wool into about £40 worth of jumper, at least if you buy the wool new. Fortunately my cousin, who is a master of the car boot sale, found me a 50p bargain cone of 2-ply Shetland wool that’s been sitting in my knitting wool stash for *checks notes* five years waiting for me to work out what to do with it (never let it be said that I rush into things when it comes to knitting).

After a certain amount of calculation (and having actually knitted a proper test swatch rather than just assuming it will be fine like I normally do) I worked out that if I wound it into balls and knitted with two at a time, I should have enough 4ply wool for the pattern. This does mean acquiring a jumper that isn’t grey, which will be a bit of a shock to the system, but at least, given how slowly I knit, I’ve probably got a couple of years to get used to the idea …

A Study in Scarlet

July 29, 2018

So, almost two years after we moved in, I’m finally getting around to sorting out my study …

study decorating preparations

This is not (entirely) just idleness on my part – like gardens, I think houses need a bit of time before you can be certain how you want to decorate and arrange them, especially a study, given that I work from home so it’s also my office.

Up till now, I’ve simply had the desk in front of the window so my back was to the rest of the room and I could simply ignore the resulting chaos that develops when someone who is never tidy at the best of times is attempting to run three separate cycle campaigns, a writing and editing career, and an occasional pop up bookshop – not to mention a knitting habit.

Every so often, I would run out of floor and then tidy up, as far as I could considering there was nowhere to put anything away other than old cardboard boxes and bags (this, for those confused, is the ‘after’ photo. I did take a before photo but there are some things too embarrassing even for me to put out there on the Internet).

study tidied

This doesn’t mean I didn’t have plans for what I wanted to do with it in the fullness of time. I’m not about to become one of those decluttering people (I was kind of interested in the idea of becoming tidier, until I read an article describing books as ‘clutter’, which is clearly the first sign of insanity) but it would be good to be able to have places to put things. And I have a large collection of maps that I’d like one day to look at, for what is a study without maps on the wall. And I have always had a hankering for a huge pinboard, if only so my wall planner doesn’t become a floor planner again. And one day it would be nice to make my cousin a happy man and stop double stacking my books, although to be honest, I don’t think that will ever become a permanent state in our house, where books seem to creep in through the cracks in the walls.

study storage

Ooh, storage

Anyway, finally, a plan has emerged and I’m now 90% certain I know how I want it to be. We’ve raised the stakes by doing this a fortnight before we have friends coming to stay, which at least gives us a deadline. The last little bits of wallpaper have been scraped off the walls, the holes filled, the surfaces washed and it’s all going to be ready to go as soon as I’ve decided exactly how courageous I want to be with my colour choices (note,it won’t actually be scarlet, although now I come to think of it …)

I have no doubt that, six months down the line, everything will undoubtedly be scattered around the room in complete chaos because it’s a bit late to be undergoing a complete personality transplant this late in the game. But at least I’ll know that, should I want to, I could totally tidy it all away, if only in theory.

At which point, I will probably take up another stuff-generating activity…

Put a Lid on it

December 7, 2017

While nobody would describe me as a dedicated follower of fashion, I do notice the odd trend as it whooshes past, mostly with bafflement (and seriously, what was it with the slits in the shoulders of tops this summer? Any future period drama set in this will leave the poor wardrobe mistress frantically taking the scissors to slash through the sleeves of every top, while people scratch their heads and wonder – not for the first time – just what we were thinking in 2017). But I was heartened to note that otherwise clearly fashionable and soignee young women had suddenly started sporting practical bobble hats everywhere, even indoors (indeed, even paired with tops that left their clavicles out in the cold). Not that I had any need for a bobble hat, having my magical tweed cap to keep my head warm and dry, but it was nice to know that if I did, I’d be able to just go out and purchase one, in an actual fashion outlet, and wear it safe in the knowledge that I was in with the in crowd. And also that young women were at least keeping their heads warm, if not their shoulders

And then, the other half came home from work with just such a bobble hat, knitted by a colleague (he has such lovely workmates) who had brought in her handiwork to share. I tried it on, and it was so cosy and comfy that it was quite hard to take it off, even though wearing a hat indoors seems like a step down a slippery slope that ends with never taking your fleece off ever, even in August. Feeling a little chilly at my desk the next day, I couldn’t resist sticking the hat back on, and was surprised at how effective it was at keeping all of me warm, not just my head (more results from the Centre for the Study of the Bleeding Obvious as they come in). I fear that a line may have been crossed here, and that fingerless gloves, scarves, and the dreaded fleece will not be far behind. It is perhaps fortunate that we will be off to America, a place where they heat their houses properly, before the habit can get out of hand.


No photo of the hat – it might be fashionable but that doesn’t mean I don’t look ridiculous in it – but this was the weather on my ride home

Still, having got caught in an icy rainshower on my way back from fetching the paper, I can not only confirm that the new jacket is (so far) Waterproof in Scotland, but that a woolly bobble hat was a very welcome thing to come home to, especially as there is now snow on the ground. Here’s hoping that the fickle finger of fashion does not move on too fast and spares me my hat, at least until the weather starts to warm up again, in, ooh, about May.